St. Thomas sinks Captains

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Christopher Newport's Christopher McDougal is welcomed at home plate after hitting the tournament's first home run.
d3photography.com photo by Larry Radloff

By Gary Flick for D3baseball.com

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. -- In game three of the World Series, looming clouds took the place of the sunny skies over Fox Cities Stadium, but it was the bats of the St. Thomas Tommies that brought the rain. After the Christopher Newport Captains drew first blood in the bottom of the second, St. Thomas (39-8) exploded in the third and put up nine runs. The Tommies cruised until the ninth when they were able to thwart an exciting inning rally from CNU (34-9).

Both teams swung the bat well early, as there were 17 total hits after just three innings, but the Tommies were able to bring in the runs with timely hits and some help from sloppy CNU fielding.

The huge third inning started when number nine batter Justin Novak kicked off St. Thomas by bunting for a lead-off single. In an attempt to move Novak to second, freshman Ben Podobinski laid down a perfect bunt of his own and beat it out to put runners on first and second. After an untimely balk, Sophomore Tim Kuzniak hit a bomb over the right fielder’s head on a 3-0 count.

“I haven’t done much of that [let my guys swing on 3-0 counts] this year but Tim’s been seeing the ball great and it worked out for us,” said coach Chris Olean of his fortuitous decision to let his guys take their cracks in the third.

The Captains finally notched their first out of the inning on a Dylan Thomas sacrifice fly, but St. Thomas kept rolling. J.D. Dorgan drove in another run with a single and then, in his second at bat of the inning, Novak brought in two more with a rope down the first base line that hit the bag and careened into shallow center field.

Novak said half-jokingly of his lead off bunt, “I’m not a guy with power so I have to stick with what works.” He added of his second hit of the inning, which brought in two RBIs, “He got me out in front, but it was a good thing I was thinking opposite field approach and it hit the bag and bounced high enough to bring in two guys.” Novak added another hit in the fifth and scored all three times he reached base.

After another RBI single on Podobinski’s second hit of the inning and two throwing errors to plate the ninth run of the inning, the Captains finally closed out the third.

Errors were a problem for the Captains in the early going as they had four in the first three innings and five for the game.

“Every mistake we made, they made us pay for it,” said head coach John Harvell of the errors, and in speaking of the third inning he added, “I think we played eight great innings, we just have to play nine tomorrow.”

The Captains did answer in the third with two runs of their own after a single by Matt Shoemaker and a long double off of the left field fence by Sr. Steven Lindemuth, but The Captains wouldn’t score again until the bottom of the ninth.

Fun facts from
the record book

St. Thomas's eight stolen bases was one off the record. In 1996, Methodist stole nine bases in a game in a game with RPI. In the game, RPI stole three of their own to set the record of 12 by both teams.

The Tommies put up another two runs in the fifth to go up 11-4 and then one more in the sixth to stretch the lead to 12-4, but bats weren’t the only thing working for the Tommies. Starting pitcher Steve Maher went seven innings for St. Thomas and though he admits it was not his best start of the season, it was the most memorable as it gave him the school record for wins in a season with 13.

“I really didn’t have my best stuff out there, but I knew if I threw the ball over the plate and let my fielders do their job we could leave with a win,” said Maher. “[Breaking the record] is very humbling and it’s just unbelievable for me.”

After a few quick innings, the Captains once again showed life in the bottom of the ninth. CNU led off with a single from senior Ben Lenda and he was driven in by the tournament’s first home run, a booming shot by No. 9 batter Christopher McDougal. After a single and two walks, a deep fly ball to center brought in the third run of the inning on a tag up. Another walk loaded the bases for the second time and rally caps were flying, but two clutch strikeouts by the Tommies' Tommy Dancyk closed the deal and kept St. Thomas in the winners bracket.

CNU will take on Whitworth, which lost to Marietta 13-2. That game sent Marietta against St. Thomas, matching two of the last three Division III baseball national champions.

St. Thomas will take on the winners and Olean wants a crack at the best, “I’d love to see Marietta and see what we can really do.”